Did Singapore Land Authority build a carpark shelter for the Minister of Law?

Did Singapore Land Authority build a carpark shelter for the Minister of Law?

Reform Party Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam’s recent social media posts have ignited a public debate surrounding the residences of Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan.

Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has confirmed that both ministers are indeed residing in  the colonial bungalows located along Ridout Road, which are managed by SLA. Notably, Mr. Shanmugam oversees SLA in his capacity as Minister for Law.

Responding to the controversy, SLA stated that the rentals of properties at No. 26 and No. 31 Ridout Road were carried out in accordance with the relevant SLA procedures.

However, Mr Jeyaretnam’s posts raised questions about the fairness of the auction process for these bungalows, specifically questioning whether the ministers were paying below market value. He called on SLA to provide clarification on the matter.

The ensuing controversy has prompted members of parliament from both the ruling party and the opposition to file questions that will be addressed in the upcoming parliamentary sitting scheduled for July.

The Workers’ Party has urged SLA to release all pertinent information, including the guide rent for the properties, ahead of the parliamentary session. Their aim is to facilitate a comprehensive and meaningful debate in Parliament.

However, SLA, in its press release on 12 May, indicated that further details would be revealed during the July parliamentary sitting. This suggests that no additional information will be disclosed until then.

Singapore Land Authority as developer for Mr Shanmugam

Data obtained from the Urban Development Authority (URA) indicates that the total size of 26 Ridout Road is approximately 28,497.67 square meters (306,930.38 square feet).

By comparing satellite photos from 2012 and 2022, notable changes are apparent, including the construction of additional structures and a reduction in greenery within the estate.

Regarding the additional structures, it is evident that a new structure was built at the main building. According to URA records, written approval was granted in October 2018 for the construction of an open-sided car park shelter.

It should be noted that this addition does not increase the gross floor area and is exclusively designated for car parking purposes.

Additional carpark shelter and roundabout built after Minister K Shanmugam moved in

Of particular interest is the fact that SLA is identified as the developer of the additional structure. This is noteworthy because Dr Balakrishnan had his own contractor listed as the developer for similar works carried out at 31 Ridout Road in September 2021.

As SLA states that the property was rented to Mr Shanmugam in June 2018, it then raises questions as to why SLA, instead of the Minister engaging his own contractor, assumed the role of developer for constructing the sheltered car park. The issue of who financed the construction works also remains unclear.

Similarly, it is perplexing that SLA, the purported developer, undertook partial replacement of damaged timber members and the restoration and replacement of existing doors and windows for 26 Ridout Road in 2022.

The terms and conditions of leasing such a property typically place the responsibility for all maintenance works on the tenant.

Terms and Conditions for tenants of black-and-white houses

Furthermore, the records on URA do not appear to show any written approval for the construction of the roundabout within the estate.

Additionally, the records do not indicate any written approval for the demolition of the smaller pool located at the back of the estate, nor for the construction of the larger pool that is visible on the satellite map.

Of course, we also have a question regarding the trees at 26 and 31 Ridout Road. If these trees, located within the ministers’ residences, have conservation status, was approval sought for their removal? If so, who granted this approval? Furthermore, were any given approvals supported by independent assessments?

In any case, answers from the Singapore Land Authority or the Ministers during the upcoming July Parliamentary sitting are eagerly anticipated as the public seeks clarity on these matters.

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